by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
The Beanpot takes over the TD Banknorth Garden for the 55th time, and this year's tournament is wide-open.
The "BU Invitational" as it has become known in Boston may not even feature the Terriers in the final. Northeastern has been hot as of late, but will it be able to continue their recent string of stellar play to pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent tournament memory?
Will Boston College be able to get by Harvard who has been surging recently with wins over Rensselaer and tying Quinnipiac.
At least some of the fog will subside Monday night.
No. 13 Boston University vs. Northeastern
The Terriers haven't been able to pickup a win in their last three games, but have picked up two points in ties with UMass and UMass Lowell.
The Huskies, who have been improving every time that they step on the ice, are going to have to deal with BU's John Curry. The "Cinderella Story" of 2004 has turned into a story of dominance.
Remember former BU goaltender Sean Fields? While being an average goaltender for his four years in uniform for the Terriers, he had a reputation for playing his best hockey at the TD Banknorth Garden.
The same goes for Curry.
Since he took over as BU's starting goalie in 2004-2005, he has lost just one game at the "Gahden," and is undefeated in Beanpot games. Here is a look at Curry's performances:
2/14/05 — Beanpot Finals - W 3-2 OT vs. Northeastern
33 of 35 — 2 GA — 74:10
3/18/05 — Hockey East Semi-Finals — L 5-2 vs. New Hampshire
22 of 27 — 5 GA — 60:00
2/6/06 — Beanpot First Round — W 5-3 vs. Harvard
38 of 41 — 3 GA — 60:00
2/13/06 — Beanpot Finals — W 3-2 vs. Boston College
18 of 20 — 2 GA — 60:00
3/17/06 — Hockey East Semi-Finals — W 9-2 vs. New Hampshire
29 of 31 — 2 GA — 60:00
3/18/06 — Hockey East Finals — W 2-1 OT vs. Boston College
29 of 30 — 1 GA — 74:22
Curry's Career Garden Totals: 5-1-0, 2.39, .918
Curry's Career Beanpot Totals: 3-0-0, 2.16, .927
It will be a tall task for the Huskies despite their recent string of success. They dominated Maine in a 6-1 win last weekend and then came within a goal of sweeping the Black Bears losing 2-1 in overtime the next night.
This past weekend Brad Thiessen made 23 saves as Northeastern scored with 49 seconds left in overtime to beat Merrimack 1-0.
Thiessen shouldn't expect the same result against BU Monday night — the Terriers haven't been shutout in a tournament record 86 Beanpot games.
Both teams pride themselves on defense, so don't expect a high-scoring affair in the opener. The last time that the Terriers and Huskies battled, they played to a scoreless tie at Agganis Arena on Jan. 6.
The Terriers also boast the second best defense in the nation at just 1.77 goals per game; Northeastern is 19th in the country at 2.54.
The edge has to go to Boston University for the simple fact that they have been in this situation numerous times. John Curry is undefeated and Brad Thiessen will take part in the tournament for the first time in his career.
The Huskies' roster is riddled with underclassmen (19 freshmen and sophomores). BU's experience will pay off and they should find themselves playing for a 28th championship next Monday.
Prediction: No matter the numbers or the recent history. I have a real hard time picking against BU in the Beanpot.
BU 2-1 in overtime
No. 18 Boston College vs. Harvard
The teams' overall records tell you that the Eagles likely have the advantage heading into the late game of the tournament.
However despite the Crimson being 9-12-1 and the Eagles sitting at 14-10-1; Harvard owns a victory in their only previous meeting this season.
Not only was it a win, but it was a shutout win for Crimson goaltender Kyle Richter.
Richter made 36 saves on the night of Nov. 7 and stopped BC on all eight of its power plays.
Special teams are likely to play a huge role in Monday's rematch as well, and if it does, the Crimson hold the advantage.
Harvard's power play is thriving with a 21.6% success rate. Ryan Maki leads the charge with six of his eight goals on the season coming on the power play. In fact, half of Harvard's goals (30 of 60) have come with the man-advantage.
The Eagles on the other hand have been on a rollercoaster ride all season. They had big wins such as sweeping Wisconsin in the cheese state and picking up big wins at BU and Maine.
Vice versa, they have also suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of Notre Dame (7-1), and the same Crimson that they face Monday night.
Despite his so-so numbers, Cory Schneider is still seen by many as one of the best goalies in college hockey. The first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks has played all but six minutes in net for the Eagles this season.
History is still on the Eagles side. BC hasn't missed out on the finals when playing either Harvard of Northeastern in the first round since 1998 when they lost to — what a coincidence — the Harvard Crimson, 5-4 in overtime.
Prediction: In a tournament of this magnitude, experience pays dividends. With BC's experience, we will likely be in for yet another BC-BU matchup for a championship at the Garden.